tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 19, 2012 12:30am-1:00am EDT
years. but beyond that, it connects me, harry connected me to -- it just has been a storyline through so much of my life so when i look back at the books, i can remember where i was when i wrote all of these 17 years i spent with those characters, 17 years. >> rose: but do you talk to them in some real sense? i mean -- >> the one that i miss the most beyond any character is dumbledore and he was a strange character i feel like i wrote him from somewhere in the back of my brain, he would say things i didn't think i believed but i would say, oh oh, yes that is te and he is an interesting character and that is true if i talked to any of them it would be dumbledore sovereignty you set out to write this new book and you knew it would be about adults, what else did you know after you had that inspiration on that plane? >> well, the germ of the idea was a council of action, a local
council election that was subverted by teenagers which was a device to expose certain secrets, yes, that was the basic idea, and i was excited by that idea, because it was going to give me an opportunity to explore a lot of things that are important to me, and things that obsess me frankly. >> rose: like? >> for example, i just talked about the fact that i was in a very precarious situation for a few year i was probably as poor as you can go without being homeless in the uk which is not to say friend and family didn't help me because they did, but, you know, it was tough, and. >> rose: and you were writing a book and had to depend on the government? >> well, yes, i did, although i was working part-time, the law at that time was you could earn up to a very small amount per week without forfeiting housing benefit which was the thing that was keeping us homed so i worked up to that amount, i had a clerical job in a church at one point, so i -- and then i was
teaching, but we were still existing partly on benefits, i couldn't wholly support us and then the miracle happened. harry buzz published and we really didn't look back after a few months. it changed my life. that period, that period of my life was a formative experience for me and it shaped my world view and it always will shape my world view. the experience of having been part of a mass of people who are very voiceless, the experience of being scapegoated and stigmatized because that was a political crime at that time, really has colored my world view in a sense and i don't thinkly ever lose it. i don't think i will ever lose it.
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with d.l. hughley. he has a new comedy special. it is called "d.l. hughley: the endangered list." the special tax on many issues of our time, including the notes on a -- the notion of a post- racial america. we are glad you could join us for my conversation with d.l. hughley, coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: please welcome d.l. hughley back to this program. later this month, you can catch his all new comedy special, called "d.l. hughley: the endangered list." the one-hour special airs saturday, october 27 on -- at 11:00 on comedy central. here is a preview. >> one of the groups we have got to start with -- lobbyists. i want to tell you i i am here. this is a little bit insane, but
it is the real thing. i am trying to get the black man put on the endangered species list. >> it sounds a little crazy. definitely not the craziest things we have worked on. we have worked on protecting chimpanzees and babies from falling down stairs. >> babies from falling downstairs'? >> you better believe it. strong lobby. >> so i am in the right place. >> about eight years ago -- this idea had been running around in my head a little while. years ago, when tonya harding tried to buy groceries and the woman was given probation. a guy kicked a horse and got one year. there was this just a position of how they treat animals and how the one feel sympathetic for young, black women. one day, i was playing golf up
north and my ball went into a wet area. the marshall said, you cannot go into that area. that is the habitat of the california salamander. damaging his habitat cost $50,000 and you get a year in jail. i said, man, if black people had these kind of protections -- [laughter] i went on the department of the interior to look at the endangered species list. virtually everyone, from societal neglect to large species in captivity, too encroachment in the national habitat, ultimately it became a social experiment. you will very rarely see -- if you took a gray wolf, which has habitat challenges, and changed his name to trayvon martin, he would get less sympathy. it seemed like an interesting
place. tavis: what do you say to black men or others to feel insulted by the very comparison to the gray wolf, to the salamander? >> i think if people had the sympathy for us that they had four other species that were in danger, there would be in a better position. if you cannot argue that we are -- the dinosaur is not here because of the education age. it poses those kind of challenges for black men. i will never forget that i am a comic. why are people so non- sympathetic? you never see anybody in society being sympathetic towards the black man for anything. it is an interesting concept. tavis: to your concept of the ice age purses the education
age, i take your point. where the animals are concerned, the situation they are in is through no fault of their own. how do we say, if a black man belongs there, he belongs there because he put himself there? >> you are right. we are partially to blame for all of it. we do address that. we could be the first species that had a hand in his own demise. the t-rex didn't drive-by, sell weed, leave their kids to fend for themselves. when you look at the things that we deal with, we did a piece with the private prison. they went out and give letters to 48 states asking for their prisoners. they said, we will cut your prices. you will get a good price. they get to pick their
prisoners. they have got to be young and have a lengthy prison sentence. we talked to them and young gang members with two strikes. we knew that we could not do much about it so we gave the gang member stock in the prison companies. if they go to jail, not only are they inmates but they are shareholders. we asked some interesting questions. it was as irritating as it was exploratory. >> i was watching richard pryor the other night. i have never talked to a comedian in my 20 years in this business and not heard the name richard pryor when i ask for a list of all-time greats. what he was able to do was to get us to see the world through a different prism. the great ones do that. you do that, chris rock does
that. i am not interested in comics who say, have you heard the one about the democrats? i want to be entertained but also empowered. if you can do that, that is the real trick. tell me why you think putting a committee lens on this allows people -- helps people, enhances us to deal with the comedy? >> obviously, it is apples and oranges. when i take medicine, i put it in the orange juice. gin and juice comes with the documentary. the only thing -- the only way i have been able to do anything is to see irony in it. obviously, no one feels sorry for the shark because they fear it. you looked at any number of things that happened. i keep going back to trayvon martin. there was a palpable lack of noise from everybody.
most people when, i can see how i would have been afraid of a young guy like that. just being afraid of somebody puts you in peril. we made those kinds of comparisons in the play. the only way i have ever been interested in, they is if it made people heard as well as make them laugh. it is not funny to me unless it has that dual set. tavis: i am in the process right now of working on my next prime- time special for pbs. i did one last year. >> you better hurry up because they are trying to get me -- is that you behind the microphone at mcdonalds? tavis: would you like a fries and shake? assuming that mr. romney does not win, we will show the second piece in this series. the last one was called "to
imported to fail." -- "too important to fail." this one is called "education under arrest." it is about the criminalization in children. the stuff that we would be sent to the principal's office for doing, they get a juvenile record today. they have a record at 10, 11, 12, 13. >> look under the auspices of the private prison institute. they can say, we are going to cut funding. i said, if black -- would be good or bad for business if black families stay together? they said, it would be bad. i said, if they gave up drug use, it would be bad. almost everything that is good for our society in general is bad for an industry that is so in the pennant. under the auspices of saying, we
are going to cut funding and make laws tougher and they still have a back door deal with these cats to get some payback. they can pretend that they are addressing an issue that funds -- that funnels these young cats into their system. it is clearly a moral lack. you allow people to have a component that you benefit from and deny somebody basic education. do we want a country of convicts, of people that we are afraid of, people that we have to interact with and never have a connection to? or do we want the society you were talking about? from a creative vantage point, that has always been important to me. tavis: there is a segment in the special, and i am not sure how earnest you were in this effort, where you were trying to understand this neo-nazi.
tell me why you were doing this. >> every species that disappeared, another species was dependent on it. we went to not only the private prison institute, but one with neo-nazis. i was talking to this cat. if we leave, just mexicans and jewish people are not going to be enough. at one point, he was saying that he wanted to break the country in half. i said, what about the mixed people? they would have their own country. what about the white women that want to come with us? [laughter] he said that their numbers had gone up exponentially. the people that would have never joined the neo-nazis, police
officers, elected officials -- i said, that does not have anything to do with the fact -- he said, no. that was a comedic look. it was an interesting way to have a conversation with somebody about racial issues. i thought it was funny and educational. i learned a lot. i am not going to the white part of detroit. tavis: or south boston, for that matter. since you mentioned president obama, you have not been shot with your commentary. nor have i. i am always reading your blog posts. you have some things to say about this presidency. tell me where you come down on this? there are a lot of black people who hoped, believed, thought and still hope that some of these issues that are disproportionately impacting black people, prison industrial
complex, unemployment, that the president, the malcolm x in him is going to come out in the second term. they are hopeful that it is going to be a new day. are you buying that? >> anybody that studies presidential history knows that they run for reelection. they do not run for history. one of the reasons we did this piece is because there was a misguided belief that a black president would have a beneficial effect for black people. it has not. he is an elected official. i would not put the onus on him. i would say that there was this belief that you could take a black president and make everything better for everybody. there is a lot of that going on in terms of the second term. he will be better than the alternative. to believe he will become something he is not is foolish. ultimately, he has a set of
goals he wants to accomplish. the bravest thing i've ever seen publicly in my lifetime was the affordable health care act. that took political capital that he may or may not -- he may suffer or benefit from, but i believe that ultimately, at his core, he is what he is. i think he is pragmatic. some of the answers require less pragmatism and more over action. i do not think there -- i do not think that is where he is going to come from. tavis: if not from the white house, how do these issues that addressed by black people? >> people have to decide what is important. we talk about education. people from the west indies value it and they are of poor circumstance. you never could have told me that india would have been the educational power that it is. they did not have as much money or opportunity as people in china or other countries.
they have placed an honest and a premium on education that is unparalleled. i think we have not. not just from an apparatus, but in our homes, we do not value it. we just do not. if you talk cool, you have more girls. if you talk cool, you are probably not going to school, doing the things you need to do to have a life after that. a small segment of your life is cool. we do not value education. we do not place a premium on it. the kids that do not get one suffer for the rest of their lives. it is as much incumbent on us as it is for our bureaucracy to do something. tavis: let's go back to the special now. there is some comedy, some new, the interspersed with the stuff we have been seeing. what is your process these days
for going about coming up with that material? i was on a plane one night, reading a piece, a q&a with chris rock in the new york times magazine. he was talking about the difficulty of honing your material. if you go to a club and somebody has you on your phone and the stock is down. since everybody knows your stuff from the kings of comedy, you can never use that material. how do you go about honing your material? >> i cannot turn on the tv -- life is more fun than i could never be. i was watching something on tv and he said, if a woman is legitimately raped, her body was shut down. all of us have these ideas about women -- i used to believe that a woman could not get pregnant a couple of days before her period.
three kids later, i am still questioning -- [laughter] it is a big thing, synthetic drugs messes up a lot. like we needed a substitute. all you need to do is look at a picture of anyone house -- of amy winehouse -- [laughter] everything is a click away. the chick-fil-a debate was funny. i love their food but i hate their stance on gay marriage. i am going to eat their chicken but leave the bonds. [laughter] i will see people railing about how god hates gay people. he hates the fattest people i
know at church, too. if your body is supposed to be a tumble, you should not go through the drive through. [laughter] i was watching the space shuttle endeavor on the corner of m.l. k and crenshaw. it was going to miles per hour.i the space shuttle is going to be tagged before it gets to the museum. tavis: you are killing me because i am sweating out. i cannot do this. is that just a gift or is there a way -- could you train me how to see the funny? everything you just said, i read the same stuff. the space shuttle came by my office yesterday. there is nothing you just said i have not read. when i read it, i did not see
the funny. you have done this before. >> not well enough, obviously. [laughter] tavis: you have sat in a host chair and if you wanted to do this, you could do this. for somebody who is a novice, i could train them at how to get better. could you train me how to see the funny? >> sure. you can tell people, this is going to be funny. they start a story that they think is funny by saying, "this is going to be funny." half way through the story, they will go, you have to be there. comedy is under attack because you have an unvarnished, unfettered look at things from your perspective and be unafraid to say them.
most people have -- you are a decent guy who does not want to be offensive. i think you have to be -- there is a component where great comics are selfish. you have to be very selfish and very myopic. tavis: in what way? >> you care more about your viewpoint and expression than its effect on someone. you care more about the idea. i was watching -- they were talking about kids and schools give them 850 calories. they're saying they are still hungry. who knew that playing video games and tweeting byrne so many calories? we have a nation of children who are overweight. in 20 years, we will have a diabetes epidemic. i read a sign that you should not shame people into being in shape. shame does not hurt as much as
diabetes. [laughter] because you are a decent and humane person, you would never have -- i am more sinister. i literally want people to feel -- i want them to stub their toes. if they sell their tow, they walk around. that is the prism from which i operate. this world, our nation, our community, they need something different. anything that makes you comfortable makes you week. when you sit at home and eat a lot, you are comfortable but it is not doing you any good. you have to strain and stress and test yourself. that is the way i looked at comedy. tavis: i get the sense -- i was
asking you whether you are still on the road as much as you have been. by the way, tomorrow night you are here in l.a. i have my tickets. do you have tickets? >> now you have your tickets. all of a sudden, the camera went dark. tavis: if you're in l.a. tomorrow and there is a ticket last summer, at nokia. that is tomorrow night, if you are in town. i asked you if you were still on the road as much as you have been, and you said yes. do you still love all of this traveling? >> is like having a great job far away. i miss my family, but sharks have got to swim, birds have got to fly. i love what i do. the most beautiful thing i've seen people do is laughing. i like it when the stakes are so
high. i love being on stage when there is so little to laugh at and so many things that people are fearing. to be able to get on stage and take it out and look at it and have people laugh, or not, does not always work, but i love it. tavis: i'm going to make the assumption that "the original kings of comedy" expanded change and tweak your audience in some ways. >> more than anything else, it was a sign. people still have to come and check out the merchandise. my audience have grown in the ways that i have. keeping it real is addressing what you are seeing. it was an invitation that people accepted. now my audience is a lot
broader. i have been all over the world doing what i do. i have always tried to maintain a striking distance where i can be as honest as they can. -- as i can. without making my wife leave me. just as honest as i can and never forget that i'm there to entertain them. it has grown and i just have a blast. tavis: a little birdie told me that another reason to vote for obama is that d.l.'s daughter works for the obama administration. if obama loses, she is coming home. >> i would like her around my house next year. tavis: if you are in l.a. tomorrow night, d.l. and cedric the entertainer back together for the first time. "the endangered list" is a new special. d.l., i love you. you are welcome back any time.
that is our show for tonight. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with michael chiklis on his hit series, "vegas." that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. you. thank you.